Democrats to plow ahead with Trump probes post-acquittal
House Democrats say even though President Trump was acquitted in the Senate, that doesn’t mean they are going to ease off their investigations into his administration.
Democrats are weighing whether to pursue new leads of possible wrongdoing or press forward with probes that were already underway when an anonymous whistleblower’s allegations last year sparked the impeachment inquiry.
But no matter which route they take, Democrats are confident there is more wrongdoing to be uncovered — it’s just a matter of when and how grave.
“Donald Trump, I still believe, is a one-man crime wave, and we can’t let him get away with all of his other offenses against the Constitution and the people,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee.
The House impeached Trump on two charges in December, alleging he withheld nearly $391 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine as leverage to press Kyiv to open investigations to benefit his 2020 reelection, including into former Vice President Joe Biden, one of his main political rivals. Democrats say Trump then sought to cover up his actions.
The GOP-controlled Senate acquitted Trump on Wednesday, with all but one Republican arguing his conduct was not an impeachable offense.
But Democrats, pointing to Trump’s recent remarks maintaining that his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “perfect,” have expressed concern that Trump will feel even more untouchable after his acquittal, despite being impeached in the House and admonished by moderate Republican senators.
One day after Trump’s acquittal, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the House was awaiting the outcome of several lawsuits previously filed by Democrats, including those targeting Trump’s financial records at Deutsche Bank and former White House counsel Don McGahn.
“We will continue to do our oversight, to protect and defend the Constitution,” she said during a press conference Thursday, vowing to continue to investigate allegations of administrative wrongdoing, wherever it arises.
The McGahn case goes to the heart of a crucial question for House Democrats: Do they subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton and other witnesses related to the Ukraine saga? Pelosi declined to say if they would.
“Those cases still exist. If there are others that we see as an opportunity, we’ll make a judgment at that time,” she said. “But we have no plans right now.”
Still, other Democrats have eagerly promoted the idea. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said this week that he would “likely” pursue Bolton’s testimony.
House Democrats relentlessly pushed for the Senate to allow witness testimony during Trump’s trial, arguing that the White House obstructed their impeachment inquiry at unprecedented levels by not allowing officials — both current and former — to testify.
Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, argued that doing so would set a dangerous precedent of letting the House rush through its impeachment process and then pass off its responsibilities to the Senate, rather than first battling for key evidence in the courts.
But now that acquittal is in the rearview mirror, the decision about whether to pursue Bolton’s testimony has been punted back to the House.
If the House decides to pursue Bolton, some Democrats believe they need to be ready for a legal battle and attacks from Republicans, who will characterize the effort as another partisan attempt to go after Trump through congressional investigations instead of at the ballot box.
Some Democrats, such as Rep. Ted Lieu (Calif.), said they would “support” going to court for Bolton’s testimony, which they say is key.
The Bolton deliberations come just weeks ahead of his book release in mid-March.
The New York Times made waves during the Senate trial by reporting that Bolton planned to dish damaging details about not only Trump’s contacts with Ukraine but also his contacts with other foreign leaders.
Democrats have noted that they are particularly interested in hearing from the former Trump official after the Times report said Bolton had similarly voiced concerns about Trump’s contacts with China and Turkey, alleging that his former boss has granted personal favors to the leaders of the two countries.
“If you believe the Bolton leaks that this was not the only country that he was acting shady with, then I do think we should learn more about what’s going on with Russia. What’s going on with Turkey? What’s going on with Saudi, North Korea, etc.?” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of both the Judiciary and Intelligence panels.
One example in the Times report said Bolton’s book will detail how Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asked Trump — who ultimately agreed — to step in and ask members of his Cabinet to thwart a criminal probe into one of the country’s largest state-owned banks, known as Halkbank.
Democrats say they are going to discuss early next week how to move forward on the Trump probes.
“Those are all discussions for next week,” said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), a member of the Intelligence panel. “Obviously, it’s an area of interest.”
Democrats aren’t the only ones talking about pursuing impeachment-related investigations post-acquittal.
Senate Republicans are vowing to move forward with their investigations into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, also said he intends to keep digging up dirt on the president’s political opponents in an effort to uncover corruption in Ukraine, and he encouraged Trump to do the same.
“I would have no problem with him doing it. In fact, I’d have a problem with him not doing it. I think he would be saying that Joe Biden can get away with selling out the United States, making us a fool in the Ukraine,” Giuliani told NPR’s Steve Inskeep on Tuesday.
Democrats argued that the administration’s insistence on going after the Bidens is further reason to keep conducting oversight.
“It’s pretty rich to hear these complaints from Republicans when they’re still demanding Hunter Biden’s travel records and Giuliani is still scouring the gutters of Eastern Europe for dirt on Trump’s opponents,” said freshman Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.). “As far as I’m concerned, the House should keep doing what we’ve been doing — legislating and conducting oversight.”
While House Democrats have already used the strongest weapon in their arsenal to check a president’s conduct, they say there is nothing in the Constitution to stop them from impeaching again if the president’s behavior is serious enough to warrant such a response.
“Any future prospects for impeachment will depend on a mixture of the gravity of the offense and then the imminent danger to democracy and the election,” Raskin said. “If the president insists upon violating the Constitution to try to fix this election, he is going to find his met his match in the House of Representatives. We’re not gonna put up with that.”
Embarking on a second impeachment effort would not only be unprecedented; it also would undoubtedly invite fierce political blowback.
Such a move is also considered unlikely, with Democrats noting that Pelosi was initially reluctant to take on impeachment in the first place.
For now, Democrats are bracing to see what the president does next.
“I’m a big believer … that we didn’t just happen to stumble upon one time in his presidency that he happened to act corruptly,” Swalwell told The Hill. “A leopard doesn’t change its spots.”